The current furor over dramatic shifts that continue throughout the Middle East and North Africa often obscure the significant political protest and social actions that have set the stage for contemporary revolutionary fervor. Prologue is a film that offers audiences imagined yet intimate portraits of young activists in 1974. The film collapses time and offers testimony as an aesthetic project by giving young Lebanese activists a platform to tell the story of their forebears, and reveals a complex narrative of agitation, direct action and rebellion. The film toggles between past and present, imagined history and reality, to create a platform that engenders a dialogue with the past, an action that is often marked as taboo in the Lebanese context.
PROLOGUE directed by Raed & Rania Rafei
49 mins. | Lebanon | Arabic with English subtitles | 2011 | digital projection
In March 1974, a group of Lebanese radical leftist students occupied the campus of the American University of Beirut (AUB). They were protesting against cultural and political imperialism and social injustices at a time when Lebanon was sliding into civil violence. Prologue revisits this emblematic incident in the history of the country through the eyes of young political activists. It explores the sequence of events that led to the occupation of AUB in 1974 in light of present-day Arab revolutions. The film meticulously deconstructs the themes pertaining to any revolution: what drives change? What mobilizes the masses? What is the place of revolutionary violence? Prologue blurs the lines between reality and fiction, action and intention, past and present. Prologue is the initial phase of a feature film project on the 1974 occupation of the American University of Beirut.
This program is a part of ArteEast’s 2012 series “Making the Real: Practices of Documentation.” This program is curated by Barrak Alzaid and Mohammad Shawky Hassan and made possible with generous support from UnionDocs, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.
Raed Rafei has worked as a journalist for various publications covering an array of fields since 2004. After completing a BS at the American University of Beirut and a degree in journalism, he first contributed articles for a specialized environmental magazine before moving to work as a reporter for the Lebanese Daily Star. In 2006, he joined the Los Angeles Times as a correspondent in Lebanon. He also contributed articles to The Progressive magazine, Al-Ahram Weekly, and Forbes Arabia. Between 2008 and 2011, he worked with the Institute for War and Peace as a trainer for young Syrian reporters and an editor of an online newsletter on Syria. In 2010, he conducted research on the history of student movements in Lebanon for a TV documentary. In 2011, with his sister Rania, they wrote and directed Prologue, a 49-minute video that constituted a prelude to their first feature film, 74 (The Reconstitution of a Struggle). The film premiered at the FID Marseille, an international film festival, and received a national prize. Rafei is currently pursuing a graduate degree in journalism at the City University of New York Journalism School.
Rania Rafei is a documentary and fiction filmmaker. Born in 1979 in Tripoli, Lebanon, Rafei has a diploma in Audiovisual and Cinema Studies from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA). For the past five years, she has directed short and feature documentaries that were broadcasted on Al Jazeera Channel. Topics included, student and labor movements in the Arab world, snake hunters in Egypt and portraits of artists in the Arab world. Rafei has also worked on art and fiction film projects. She wrote and directed several short movies: Harissa Texas in 2004, The Dish and Manchette in 2005. She made four art videos: Smoking Kills, Minimum Precautions, The Four Seasons: Summer 2006 and Brain Cells in 2006-2007. In 2010, she made a documentary, Notes on Love in Copenhagen. In 2011, with her brother Raed, they wrote and directed Prologue, a 49-minute video that constituted a prelude to their first feature film, 74 (The Reconstitution of a Struggle). The film premiered at the FID Marseille, an international film festival, and received a national prize.
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